Carrie Fisher Died of Sleep Apnea, Cardiac Disease and “Other”:
According to a Coroners report, Carrie Fisher’s death was caused at least in part by Sleep Apnea. The Star Wars actress had many loyal fans saddened by her tragic death at the young age of 60.
Carrie was outspoken about her life, including her abuse of many social drugs. She was very open about her life including the good and bad. She spoke about her struggles with drugs and encouraged others to stay away from drugs.
Carrie would want awareness to be raised about Sleep Apnea as she did with drug abuse. Sleep Apnea is a silent killer, a lot like heart disease. In fact, Sleep Apnea is one of the leading causes of heart disease. There may or may not be any pain or major symptom till one day comes a tragic life ending episode such as a heart attack. Sleep Apnea is a killer plain and simple. Sleep Apnea is caused by a breathing disorder associated with small airway spaces-Specifically small mouths and nasal passageways. Poor breathing in individuals with sleep apnea causes relatively low blood oxygen levels especially at night time. When blood oxygen levels drop, the heart pumps harder to circulate more blood to meet metabolic demands. Sleep Apnea literally results in night time high blood pressure and the heart gets worn out at night time.
More doctors and dentists are screening their patients for Sleep Apnea, but according to current data, only 10-20% of people with sleep apnea are diagnosed and aware of their condition.
There is no “Cure” for sleep apnea, but many treatments do exist. Sleep Physicians recommend CPAP devices which basically blow air under pressure down the airway. CPAP does increase oxygen levels and sleep, but many people cannot tolerate having air blown down the airway at night. Sleep apnea is diagnosed by taking a sleep test called a polysomnogram. Many people avoid taking a sleep test because they know the will not comply with CPAP.
Sleep Apnea Dentists have alternatives to CPAP. Dental Sleep Apnea Appliances work well for mild and moderate sleep apnea cases. One such appliance is called a DNA appliance. The DNA appliance can increase the size of the airway permanently, but it takes time to work. The DNA is technically an orthopedic appliance. DNA appliance therapy can take 1-3 years to increase the airway optimally, but it does result in permanently increasing airway size. Theoretically the DNA could increase airway size enough to get rid of sleep apnea. Other dental appliances exist that artificially move the lower jaw forward and open at night time. Theses so called “mandibular repositioning appliances” or MRA. Many people will not tolerate MRA appliances either and if the appliance is not worn, the sleep apnea is still a problem.
Sleep Apnea is linked to TMJ pain. Basically, when oxygen levels decrease at night time, it stimulates the tooth clenching reflex. Many TMJ specialists now believe TMJ is really just a symptom of Sleep Apnea. A recent study revealed over 70% of sleep apnea patients suffer from TMJ Pain. Makes you wonder, if Carrie Fisher had been diagnosed and treated for Sleep Apnea, how things may have been different for her. Maybe her drug usage was, at least in part, self medication for TMJ pain?
Much work to educate the general public still needs to be done about Sleep Apnea. We hope better treatments will be available in the future.